SOLVING murders and robberies will always grab the headlines, but preventing youngsters from turning to crime is arguably more important for Lancashire Police. This is why the recruitment of 102 new teenage cadets in East Lancashire appears such a smart move, as reporter LAWRENCE DUNHILL found out.

THEY are East Lancashi-re’s young crimefighters.

And although they won’t have the power of arrest, dozens of teenagers have been recruited to hopefully show their peers the errors of their ways and improve relations between young people and the police.

A total of 48 police cadets have begun their training at Blackburn College, with another 54 already enrolled at Burnley College.

Aged between 13 and 18, the recruits will be expected to play a vital role in ‘breaking down barriers’ with teenagers across Blackburn with Darwen, Rossendale, Pendle and Burnley, tasked with improving relations with troublesome youths.

Police cadets work towards a BTEC qualification over 10 weeks, after which they can provide voluntary support to officers by taking part in leaflet drops, fundraising, surveys, and stewarding local fairs and events.

Sgt Rob Evans, who is co-ordinating the project, said the cadets would help the force to build relationships with young people by offering a ‘different kind of policing presence’ and acting as role models for their peers.

He added: “We are really excited about the launch of the scheme.

“The cadets we have recruited are enthusiastic and keen to get stuck into the programme.

“We are looking forward to working with them and hope that this will give them something positive to do, as well as assisting them with their future career prospects.”

The scheme is not intended to boost the number of people wanting to join the police, though officers said it would be ‘great’ if that was the case.

It is part of the Citizens in Policing programme launched last year, which included a recruitment drive for special constables, who are part-time volunteers over the age of 18.

Haslingden MP Graham Jones said: “The police are facing two issues here. They can’t afford to pay for the number of officers they would want, and there’s always been a challenge in dealing with the spirit, naivety and occasional stupidity of youth.

“I see this as an answer to both of those problems.”

The uniformed cadets will be taught basic knowledge in policing and the law, gaining an insight into road traffic collisions, first aid, officer safety, conflict management, cautions and stop and search powers.

They will also cover the phonetic alphabet, DNA and fingerprints, environmental and health projects and the history of the police, but will not be able to undertake independent patrols or have any legal powers.

Burnley MP Gordon Birtwistle said: “This is a very good initiative.

“I don’t think relations are too bad between youngsters and the police in Burnley, but there’s always room for improvement.

“It will give them an insight into how the police work and how difficult a job it is.” The new recruits will join the 44 cadets who started a course in Burnley in September.

Clive Grunshaw, Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “I am delighted so many youngsters are continuing to embrace the opportunity to become cadets in their area.

“Through being a cadet, these youngsters will get the chance to take on challenges, learn new skills and gain valuable experience.

"They will also play a vital role in engaging young people with the police service, and provide a different kind of policing presence across the county.”